Saturday, May 21, 2011

Joan the Maid - I & II (1994)

Joan The Maid - I: The Battles, II: The Prisons (1994)
Jeanne la Pucelle I: Les batailles, II: Les prisons  (1994)

Genre: Historical Drama
Director: Jacques Rivette
Starring: Sandrine Bonnaire, Andre Marcon, Patrick Le Mauff
Duration: 160 / 176 min.
Rating: 8.8/10

The epic story of Joan of Arc in two parts.  The Battles: which recounts Joan’s life after her meeting in Chinon with the future Charles VII until the taking of Orleans, and The Prisons: covering the period from Charles VII’s coronation in Rheims to her trial and execution in Rouen.

Joan the Maid is a two-part five-and-a-half hour film directed by Jacques Rivette in 1994.  It tells the epic story of Joan of Arc, played convincingly here by Sandrine Bonnaire who takes on the role with a cool and confident grace.         

The first part of the film, secondary titled The Battles, deals with Joan's rise to prominence as she struggles to gain the trust of Charles, the uncrowned king of France, and follows her as she leads the army of France to lift the English siege on the city of Orléans. 

This title is misleading in a way because the battles that Rivette is mostly concerned with here are not the actual physical conflicts of arms, rather the resistance that Joan constantly faces along the way.  First with finding an escort to take her to the king, then with the king and his council, then having to convince the clergy that she is truly sent from God and not the Devil, and finally making the soldiers believe that she can lead them to victory.

The final part, titled The Prisons, continues on after Joan's victorious battle of Orléans, as she convinces the dauphin to march to Reims where he is coronated King Charles VII, and then depicts her gradual loss of influence over the king's council, and her subsequent capture, trial, and execution at the hands of the English.

In this part we see a change in the visual mood, unlike the first half which transpired mostly outside, the second half accurately reflects its secondary title The Prisons, with much of the action now taking place within the walls and rooms of various castles.

What makes this film special, is Rivette's unique style.  Well choreographed scenes shot with long takes, reminiscent of stage plays, give the story and characters breathing room to develop.  He also employs an interesting narrative device, using candid monologues filmed documentary style, from a number of characters close to Joan, to move the story along.

With a simple and low-key production and a minimal budget, Rivette creates a wholly captivating and original telling of this legend.  Wisely delving into the unique and often ignored 'behind-the-scenes' aspects of the history that are rarely seen, rather than focusing on the same events and situations that have been shown many times before.


Jack L said...

I had no idea these existed, it seems Jeanne D'Arc must be one of the most frequently portrayed historical figures in French cinema...

Anyway, these films sound good and Rivette is a good director so I may check them out;
Are you going to review all the films of Jeanne D'Arc now or something ? because then you'll have to watch the Besson one which looks atrocious ;)

The Angry Lurker said...

 Is there much action between the two movies, like fighting and battles?

Bonjour Tristesse said...

No there isn't a lot of action here, but there is a big battle that occurs at the end of part 1, about 20-30 minutes long, and a few brief scenes here and there.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

There are a couple more Jeanne d'Arc films I want to see, but I'm going to stop here, at least for now. 

I've got several other films that I need to watch first.

Das Auto! said...

If only I had the attention span! No, but seriously this sounds like something I'd watch on a Sunday afternoon

Adalmin said...

 I did some reading up on Joan and to be frank she wasn't that great of a commander AND she expelled women from the French army. I'm like, wut, I am disappoint.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

 Yeah I've read some historians say that she was nothing more than a good luck charm, which is rather disappointing.

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